Protest groups held a nationwide “Disruption Day to Demand Equality” on Thursday, saying equal rights will be threatened by the government’s judicial overhaul plan and lowering the age of exemption from IDF service for haredim.
The protests included roadblocks, marches and artistic displays in dozens of locations throughout the country. The activities continued throughout the day, including a significant wave in the morning and another in the afternoon and evening. Four protesters were arrested, three in Haifa and one at Hakfar Hayarok.
In the morning, dozens of protesters blocked the Ayalon Highway. They were removed by security forces within an hour, and the highway was reopened to traffic just after midday.
Several hours later, police thwarted an attempt to block the Ayalon Highway near the Yitzhak Navon footbridge in Tel Aviv.
Brothers in Arms teamed up with the “Democratic Religious Zionist” protest group to pray Shacharit in front of Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich’s home in Kedumim. Demonstrators were heard chanting, “True religious Zionism is carrying the burden, not immortalizing the shtetl.”
Tel Aviv Disruption Day protest events
In Tel Aviv, demonstrators threw cereal into the fountain in Habima Square to protest the cost of living. The water was dyed white to look like milk, and signs said, “Here [we] cry over spilled milk,” and “What about life itself?”
In Jerusalem, activists arrived at supermarkets and stuck stickers onto milk cartons that said, “If there is no democracy, there is no equality.”
פעילים ביצעו הבוקר מיצג מחאה בכיכר הבימה בתל אביב במסגרתו צבעו את המים בכיכר בלבן, שפכו קורנפלקס ותלו שלט עליו נכתב ״ומה עם החיים עצמם״ ושלט נוסף עליו הם כתבו ״כן בוכים על חלב שנשפך״. המחאה היא בעקבות עלית מחירי החלב וכחלק מפעולות יום השיבוש צילום: @tomerappelbaum pic.twitter.com/dyq7KnC8gh— Bar Peleg (@bar_peleg) May 4, 2023
“Milk is expensive because the government is too preoccupied with judicial overhaul,” protest organizers said.
Protesters in Modi’in formed a “Human Chain of Equality” along the city’s main road and Highway 431.
At Habima Square in Tel Aviv, representatives of Israel’s hi-tech sector constructed a display entitled, “If hi-tech falls, we all fall.” Activists set up 10 giant dominoes in a row, each about two meters tall, to illustrate that when the hi-tech “domino” falls, it will set up a chain reaction in the Israeli economy and society at large.
Ongoing protest initiatives and arrests
“The deterioration of hi-tech will lead to fatal damage to the state’s revenue [streams], and like dominoes, the health, education, welfare and infrastructure systems will collapse one after the other,” the hi-tech protest organizers wrote.
Dozens of women in Tel Aviv marched in front of the Rabbinate on King David Street dressed in red Handmaid’s Tale costumes.
The performance was intended to warn against the transformation of Israel from an egalitarian democracy into a theocracy that separates women and dismisses their rights, similar to the dystopian world of The Handmaid’s Tale, a novel by author Margaret Atwood that recently was successfully adapted for television. Several such performances have taken place during judicial reform protests over the past several months.
Demonstrations were carried out in front of branches of the Rabbinate in other cities as well.
Student protest groups held marches and demonstrations in Tel Aviv, Sderot, Givat Shmuel, Metzudat junction, Beersheba, Rehovot and Holon.
In the afternoon and evening, protesters marched along the Arava Road. “Mothers at the Front” protested in front of the IDF Induction Center in Tel Hashomer, and women pushed strollers with miniature graves covered by an Israeli flag.
Road blockings, disruptions expected across Israel
A protest organized by the “Order of Mothers in Berets” was held in front of Kol Torah Yeshiva in Jerusalem. There was a “Sharing the Burden” march in the Jezreel Valley. About 1,500 people demonstrated in front of Justice Minister Yariv Levin’s home in Modi’in, and an LGBTQ community equality march was held in Tel Aviv.
“Brothers in Arms” launched what it called a “Tower and Stockade Operation” outside of retired Supreme Court president Aharon Barak’s home and erected a wooden watchtower.
A joint Jewish-Druze rally was held in the Galilee.
Former public security minister Omer Bar Lev took part in a protest outside the home of Ashkenazi haredi leader Rabbi Gershon Edelstein in Bnei Brak and posted a picture of himself at the demonstration. The protests outside the respected rabbi’s house sparked outrage among haredi politicians.
Bar Lev is currently head of the Board of Directors of Angel Bakery, and many politicians and public figures from the haredi sector called for a boycott of the bakery, with some even demanding that its kashrut certificate be revoked.
Yisrael Beytenu chairman Avigdor Liberman posted pictures and videos of himself buying at an Angel Bakery outlet.
“To the best of my knowledge, Israel is still a democracy, and people are still allowed to express their opinions,” he wrote, adding that “we will not allow the haredi wheeler-dealers to harm the livelihood of Israeli citizens.”
The protest organizers said in a statement: “The government Israel started work on a draft evasion law that will trample the principle of equality enshrined in the Declaration of Independence – tens of thousands set out to stop it.”
They said they had “succeeded, albeit temporarily, to take the draft evasion law off of the agenda” and called this one of the “greatest achievements” of the protests.
“The government continues all the time to bring new legislation that will change the face of Israel from a Jewish and democratic state to a messianic dictatorship, and thanks to them [the protesters], they are failing,” the statement said.
Meanwhile, the negotiating teams representing the coalition and the two largest opposition parties, Yesh Atid and National Unity, held negotiations on Thursday.Each side held an internal meeting in the morning, and in the afternoon, they joined together. The purpose of the separate meetings was to “summarize all of the topics that arose for discussion and prepare for the next stage of the talks according to the sides’ preferences and decisions,” Maariv reported.Yesh Atid demanded that the next meeting revert to the issue of the Judicial Selection Committee, which it said was “the heart of the reform and the heart of the argument,” the report said.
The Jerusalem Post could not confirm the Maariv report.